eReviews: African-American Newspapers, 1827–1998 | May 1, 2012

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CONTENT African American Newspapers, 1827‚ 1998, an America’s Historical Newspaper /Archive of Americana file, is a collection of the full text and indexing for more than 270 19th- and 20th-century U.S. newspapers from 37 states (plus the District of Columbia) published by and for African Americans. It was created from the African American newspaper archives of the Kansas State Historical Society, the Library of Congress, and the Wisconsin Historical Society, with some sections overseen by James Danky, editor of African-American Newspapers and Periodicals: A National Bibliography.

Titles here include Freedom’s Journal (NY), which was the first African American newspaper published in the United States; the Appeal (MN); the Colored Citizen (KS); Frederick Douglass’ Paper; the Huntsville Gazette; New York Age; New Orleans Daily Creole; Northern Star and Freemen’s Advocate (NY); Richmond Planet; Rights of All (NY); L’Union (LA); the Washington Bee; and the Wisconsin Afro-American.

The subject matter encompasses ethnic studies, cultural studies, literature, social history, and political studies from the antebellum South to the civil rights movement and beyond. As well as regular newspaper articles, the content is made up of advertisements, editorials, illustrations, and obituaries.

USABILITY The workmanlike opening screen has a simple search box with a dropdown menu for Full Text, Headline, Standard Title, or Title as Published. At right is the tip To find an exact phrase, use quotes. Example: ‚ÄòCivil War.’ Below is a box labeled Return, with the choices Chronological Order, Reverse Chronological, and Best Matches First. Underneath that are tabs for Dates and Eras (to set a custom range or search by presidential eras or eras in American history); Article Types (opinion; election returns; letters; legal proceedings; shipping news; and birth, death, and matrimony notices); languages (limit to English or French); publication location; and newspaper titles.

My first search, for emancipation proclamation, returned 121 results. When these results were ranked in chronological order, the first listed was from page one of the March 31, 1866, South Carolina Leader. Since the proclamation was issued January 1, 1863, that seemed a bit late for the first mention in an African American newspaper, so I searched for proclamation (realizing this would include all mentions of that term). I got a list of 603 articles, the first being for a Thanksgiving proclamation, but the second from the front page of the November 1, 1862, L’Union, from New Orleans, referring to L’importante proclamation du President, emancipant, au ler janvier 1863‚Ķ. Research elsewhere revealed that President Lincoln announced his intentions on September 22, 1862, so the 1862 reference to the coming proclamation was impressive.

It was easy and fast to call up first the article, then the full page on which it appeared. I was able to Add It to My Collection immediately, to be consulted later, as there are links at screen top to View My Collection and View My Searches.

My next search was for voting rights act, and I limited it to the date range of after 1965. It netted 343 results, all of which displayed a preview snippet of the article where the phrase appears and ready links to view the article or full page.

Then I did a search for cigarettes, limiting the article type to advertisements, and I was puzzled when I got only 215 hits, all from after 1968. I looked at the search screen more closely and realized the system had retained my previous date limiter for after 1965 and cut down the results accordingly. That explains why the Clear All button is situated next to the search command. When I cleared the parameters and redid the search for cigarette advertisements, I got 1,938 results.

I first viewed them in chronological order, starting with the first mention, in an ad on page two of the July 8, 1865, New Orleans Tribune for cigarettes de Lancelot, advertised by a pharmacy. Then I resorted the results with a single click into reverse chronological order and found an ad from page 19 of the September 25, 1994, Afro-American Gazette headed These cigarettes are killing me! There’s a thesis paper for anyone interested‚ and a handy search enhancement that suits this file very well.

Next, I tried to limit a search on smoking by state (I tried for West Virginia), but I got zero results. When I clicked the link in the suggestion, Click Edit Search to return to the Search Screen, I got an error message. So I clicked the breadcrumb trail link at screen top to go back into the file.

This extraordinary content‚ both deep and broad‚ is the main reason to acquire the file. It’s a treasure trove of African American culture and history. But the power of the search and display system also delivers that content beautifully. For example, I was at first concerned that under the Newspaper Titles tab, the publications were displayed only by state until I saw the onscreen instruction Click the column headers below to sort your matching newspaper titles. This sorts them into alphabetical order by title, city, and state, and chronologically by start date (sometimes an end date is also included).

PRICING For public libraries, prices are based on book volume, population served, and other factors. For academic libraries, prices are based on the size and mission of the institution. For example, members of the Association of Research Libraries will pay more than a small liberal arts college. Through June 2012, the price of this file will range from $4000 to $40,000. /p>

VERDICT Enthusiastically recommended for public and academic libraries serving serious researchers in African American studies and American history.

Cheryl LaGuardia About Cheryl LaGuardia

Cheryl LaGuardia always wanted to be a librarian, and has been one for more years than she's going to admit. She cracked open her first CPU to install a CD-ROM card in the mid-1980's, pioneered e-resource reviewing for Library Journal in the early 90's (picture calico bonnets and prairie schooners on the web...), won the Louis Shores / Oryx Press Award for Professional Reviewing, and has been working for truth, justice, and better electronic library resources ever since. Reach her at, where she's a Research Librarian at Harvard University.